Viva La Friendship

Multiple schools under Friendship’s project with KLABU-PSG win titles and runners up at national inter-school competition

Girls from the Thaingkhali High School celebrate their national championship victory. © Friendship
by Raeed Abd-Allah Chowdhury
September 26, 2023

From September 5 – 12, multiple schools from around Bangladesh participated in the National 50th Inter-School, Madrasah, and Technical Education Sports Competition in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar. Ukhiya is the sub-district where the majority of Rohingya have taken refuge since 2017, following the prejudicial violence that erupted in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Among the winners were multiple schools supported by KLABU-PSG and Friendship. The tournament was attended by senior government officials, as well as staff from Friendship, who also helped arrange the event.

Denied citizenship since 1982, the Rohingya ethnicity is the largest stateless population in the world, and faced incomprehensible violence from the Myanmar military in the fall of 2017, forcing them to seek shelter, with almost a million eventually ending up in Cox’s Bazar, in the south of Bangladesh. Friendship has been in the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar National (FMDN) camps since then, and in April of last year, partnered with eminent football club, Paris Saint-Germain and Dutch NGO KLABU to assist the children of the Rohingya and the host communities in Ukhiya.

Bereft of their childhoods, the project allows children to find joy, entertainment and bonding through sports © Friendship

The partnership involves a sports club and mobile sports library (MSL) that supply students from multiple schools in the host communities, with sports equipment, jerseys, shoes, and other kit. The sports club is situated in Camp 19 and provides a safe haven for children in the camp to come and participate in various sports. These are all facilitated by instructors and coaches for a multitude of sports and games, all in an effort to foster solidarity, camaraderie, friendship, cooperation, teamwork, and perhaps most importantly—joy. There is something to be said about sports—possibly football most of all—and how unifying it is across borders and cultures.

There is perhaps nothing more unifying across the world as supporting the same international sports team. © Friendship

That is exactly the spirit that the project has tried to capture, and though winning is not everything, it is certainly a form of validation. The Moriccha Palong High School’s boys’ team secured the championship this year, while Thaingkhali High School secured the runner-up position. Among the girls, Thaingkhali High School emerged as champions, with Bhalukia Palong High School securing the runner-up position in the football category. All these schools are supported by the PSG-KLABU project and are a testament to the quality of the instructors and coaches as much as it is to the inborn, and thus far untapped talent of the school students. Indeed it is worth noting that this is not the first time a school supported by the project has collected a trophy.

The Mobile Sports Library not only has equipment and gear for the students, but also a screen that streams matches. © Friendship

Aside from football, the tournament also featured kabaddi (Bangladesh’s national sport), track and field, handball, and swimming. Bodrul Alam, sub-district education officer and academic supervisor of Ukhiya praised the heightened competitiveness and attendance compared to previous years, attributing this positive shift to the dynamic efforts of the Friendship-KLABU-PSG project.

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